Underappreciated Literature: from WNYC’s “Leonard Lopate Show”

Source: http://www.wnyc.org/shows/lopate/underappreciated.html

During July and August 2006, WNYC’s “Leonard Lopate Show” devotes time to a series of features on “authors that are little-known in America, authors that mysteriously fell out of fashion, and authors who never gained wide recognition in the first place.” Authors discussed include:

The programs can be heard or downloaded in MP3 format at the link above.

Thomas Pynchon’s Favorite Neglected Book

Source: http://www.themodernword.com/pynchon/pynchon_essays_gift.html

From the Modern Word website, a section devoted to the novelist Thomas Pynchon reprints his contribution to the December 1965 issue of Holiday magazine. Asked to name his favorite neglected book, Pynchon wrote of Oakley Hall’s novel, Warlock:

Tombstone, Arizona, during the 1880’s is, in ways, our national Camelot: a never-never land where American virtues are embodied in the Earps, and the opposite evils in the Clanton gang; where the confrontation at the OK corral takes on some of the dry purity of the Arthurian joust. Oakley Hall, in his very fine novel Warlock (Viking) has restored to the myth of Tombstone its full, mortal, blooded humanity. Wyatt Earp is transmogrified into a gunfighter named Blaisdell who, partly because of his blown-up image in the Wild West magazines of the day, believes he is a hero. He is summoned to the embattled town of Warlock by a committee of nervous citizens expressly to be a hero, but finds that he cannot, at last, live up to his image; that there is a flaw not only in him, but also, we feel, in the entire set of assumptions that have allowed the image to exist…. It is the deep sensitivity to abysses that makes Warlock one of our best American novels.

Note: Warlock has been reissued as part of the NYRB Classics series.

Great underappreciated authors, from The Magnificent Octopus

Source: http://magnificentoctopus.blogspot.com/2006/07/great-underappreciated-authors-updated.html

As part of her literary blog, A Box of Books, Ella asked a number of fellow bookfiends a series of questions about their reading and writing experiences. One of these questions was,

Who’s your favorite underappreciated author, and what makes them great?

Blogger Isabella Kratynski compiled a list of the various responses at her Magnificent Octopus site. Among the names mentioned are the well-known — but perhaps underappreciated (Rebecca West, Mary McCarthy), and the obscure (MeÅ¡a Selimović, Adele Wiseman).

Underrated Writers, from the Syntax of Things

Source: http://syntaxofthings.typepad.com/underrated_writers/

Bloggers Jeff Bryant and Trevor Jackson asked other literary bloggers nominate contemporary writers “who aren’t receiving the attention they should.” Each blogger was asked submit up to five names. The complete list, compiled at the link above, includes 55 different writers. Remarkably, very few of the nominations overlapped. The result is a diverse survey of some of today’s neglected writers and their best works.

Lost Classics: Reader Suggestions

Source: Lost Classics Submissions

As part of its publicity for the first release of Lost Classics in 2001, Random House Canada ran a contest in which readers were invited to submit their own suggested lost classics. Over eighty readers participated. Carol Ann Westbrook won with her nomination of Pamela Brown’s A Swish of the Curtain, a tale about a group of young English children create their own theatre. “I took this book out of the library so often that when it was completely worn out, the librarian gave it to me,” she writes. Other suggestions include Henry Kriesel’s novel, The Rich Man, which I notice Red Deer Press plans to reissue in September 2006, and Joseph Kinsey Howard’s history of the Métis people of Canada and Louis Riel’s attempts to found an independent nation inside Canada.

Hear Susan Sontag talk about lost and forgotten masterpieces

Source: http://www.kcrw.com/etc/programs/bw/bw020214susan_sontag

From the great Santa Monica public radio station, KCRW, sound files from the “Bookworm” show of Thursday, 14 February 2002. The late critic and novelist Susan Sontag talks about the discovery of lost and forgotten masterpieces, in particular, on Summer in Baden Baden by Leonid Tsypkin (New Directions) about an odd vacation in the life of Fyodor Dostoevski. She also discusses Artemisia by Anna Banti (University of Nebraska Press); Fateless by Imre Kertesz (Northwestern University Press); and A Book of Memories by Peter Nadas (Farrar, Straus and Giroux).

“Lost Classics,” from the Hartford Advocate

“Lost Classics: In a culture where people barely read, it would be an exaggeration to say that writers are overrated. Still, some writers get more credit than they deserve, most get less.”
by Alan Bisbort
Source:The Hartford Advocate, 15 April 2004

“For whatever reasons, many great writers like Gissing have largely been lost to us today. Most are ‘known’ in the sense that they occasionally show up on a syllabus. And yet, most people who consider themselves ‘cultured’ will go through life unbothered by the fact that they’ve never read anything by Ivan Turgenev, Emile Zola, Willa Cather, George Eliot, Nathaniel West (Day of the Locusts should be required reading), Stephen Crane (he wrote more than Red Badge of Courage ), Theodore Dreiser (read Jennie Gerhardt and weep), James Baldwin (rage keeps him timeless), Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road , set in Connecticut, is Cheever with a knockout punch), V.S. Pritchett (the best modern essayist on literature), Dwight Macdonald ( In the American Grain is one of the great works of criticism), Randall Jarrell (for his essays, like “Sad Heart at the Supermarket”), Joseph Mitchell ( Joe Gould’s Secret is a nonfiction Great Gatsby ), A.J. Liebling (food, wars, con men … what more could you want?), and Robert Graves (known for his Claudius novels, but Good-Bye to All That is among the great war memoirs).”

Bisboort goes on to write, “The following books and authors are those I’ve been most guilty over the years of obsessing over, purchasing extra copies for friends, on whom I force them”:

Jernigan, by David Gates

“… Gates’ Jernigan is one of the most fully realized ‘anti-heroes’ (remember them?) ever captured between covers. His life falling apart, his relationship with his son unraveling, Jernigan drives north into a New England winter. It’s the strangest pilgrimage since Kerouac…”

Cell 2455 Death Row, Caryl Chessman

“In the 12 years between his sentencing and his execution, Chessman lived and tirelessly labored on Death Row at San Quentin Prison, shaping one of the most remarkable bodies of work in American legal history…. Chessman was not just a good writer; he was a good thinker whose clarity of mind and ability to bring his thoughts directly to the page….”

Darkness at Noon, Arthur Koestler

“A masterful polemic disguised as a novel, whose theme was never more pertinent than now, with much of the world emulating the control tactics of the Soviet state that Koestler so intimately knew.”

Journey to Nowhere, Shiva Naipaul

“As a writer, Shiva was the equal of his Nobel Prize-winning older brother, V.S. In this riveting book, Shiva probes the Jim Jones “Guyana tragedy,” sparing no one, widening the target to include California consciousness-raising. He does it with a withering humor that is just this side of suppressed rage….”

Editor’s note

Carroll and Graf recently announced that it was reissuing Cell 2455 Death Row in Fall 2006, with a new introduction by Joseph Longseth.

“Rediscover some of the underappreciated children’s classics of the past,” by Karen MacPherson

Source: “Rediscover some of the underappreciated children’s classics of the past,” by Karen MacPherson, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Tuesday, May 30, 2000

“Every once in a while, however, it’s good to take a step back and rediscover some of the underappreciated classics of the past. It’s a bit like finding buried treasure. Two such treasures are Thimble Summer by Elizabeth Enright (Dell, $4.50) and Meet the Austins by Madeleine L’Engle (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, $16). Thimble Summer won a Newbery Medal, the most prestigious children’s book award, while Meet the Austins successfully challenged a publishing taboo.”

Moorish Girl’s Unappreciated Books Archive

Moorish Girl’s Unappreciated Books Archive

Since late 2004, Laila Lalami, author of Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits, has been “asking readers, writers, editors, critics, librarians, or booksellers to weigh in on a book they loved, but which has remained underappreciated.” Almost every week, contributors ranging from veteran best-sellers (Scott Turow) to simple reading enthusiasts recommend and comment upon one of their favorite neglected books.

Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski on “The lost boys (and girls)”

Source: “The lost boys (and girls),” Tom Boncza-Tomaszewski, The Independent, 14 November 2004

“It’s a dismal afternoon and I’ve ended up searching for lost authors on the internet: writers who once had flourishing careers, but who now face extinction. Like many things that occur online, it’s a kind of sordid game, depressing even; but it’s addictive. I type an author’s name into a search field: Marlowe, Gabriel. He cropped up in a memoir I was reading; a mysterious figure who had a critical and commercial success in the mid-1930s with his first novel, I Am Your Brother, a tale of someone who finds he may have a brother hidden in the attic above his studio, fed offal and fairy stories once a day by their mother. I like the sound of it, and but I’m primarily interested in how many copies of it still exist: how much Marlowe there is left in the world.” At the end of the artice, Boncza-Tomaszewski selects his own “Five Forgotten Gems”: Thru (1975), by Christine Brooke-Rose; The Woman With the Flying Head and Other Stories (1997), by Yumiko Kurahashi; Crisis Cottage (1956), by Geoffrey Willans; L’Ecume des Jours (Froth on The Daydream) (1947), by Boris Vian; and The Life of Cardinal Polatuo (1965), by Stefan Themerson.

Jane Smiley on Emile Zola’s “The Fat and the Thin”

“Try This, 2–Excess in All Things,” by Jane Smiley

In this guest post to Ariana Huffington’s blog, Jane Smiley celebrates The Fat and the Thin (also translated as “The Belly of Paris”), a volume from Zola’s Rougon-Macquart series, which brims with food and characters: “I almost said that the best thing about The Fat and the Thin is the complexity of the characters, major and minor, but really, so many things about the novel are both astute and beautifully rendered that there is no best thing. Foodies should not miss this novel, because it is an incomparable trip to the original monument of cuisine, high, low, and everything in between.” Zola’s Money, an Editor’s Choice, does the same for the world of banking and stock market speculation.

Raymond Chandler’s Neglected Authors

Sept. 22 1954
To: Hamish Hamilton

… If you want to know what I should really like to write, it would be fantastic stories, and I don’t mean science fiction. But they wouldn’t make a thin worn dime. That would be just a wonderful way to become a Neglected Author. God, what a fascinating document could be put together about these same Neglected Authors and also the one-book writers: fellows like Edward Anderson who long ago wrote a book called Thieves Like Us, one of the best crook stories ever written … Then there was James Ross who wrote a novel called They Don’t Dance Much, a sleazy, corrupt but completely believable story of a North Carolina town. I’ve never heard that he wrote anything else … And there was Aaron Klopstein. Who ever heard of him? He committed suicide at the age of 33 in Greenwich Village by shooting himself with an Amazonian blow gun, having published two novels entitled Once More the Cicatrice and The Sea Gull Has No Friends, two volumes of poetry, one book of short stories and a book of critical essays entitled Shakespeare in Baby Talk.

from Raymond Chandler Speaking.

From what I can determine, Aaron Klopstein is a figment of Chandler’s imagination. The Library of Congress never heard of him or his books, nor has the Social Security Death Index, and the only place the name appears to show up is in this letter.

Out of Print Expert Weighs In, from Maud Newton’s Blog

from Maud Newton’s Blog, out-of-print expert Robert Nedelkoff nominates three American novelists for rediscovery:

“What I’d like to do here is to present to any interested editors (at major houses, or at small presses with the kind of resources that would be needed) three American authors, whose oeuvres are extensive, and entirely out-of-print — writers whose work deserves the kind of treatment that Dawn Powell received at Steerforth or Stanley Elkin received at Dalkey Archive.”

His nominees:

Peter De Vries:

“De Vries … invariably hailed as ‘America’s foremost comic novelist.’ A writer whom Robertson Davies, in the Seventies and Eighties, repeatedly called the best American novelist, period. A writer praised by Kingsley and Martin Amis, Christopher Buckley, Julian Barnes, Thurber, Paul Theroux . . . the list could go on for centuries.” [Ed. Note: The University of Chicago Press reissued De Vries’ The Blood of the Lamb and Slouching Towards Kalamazoo in 2005.

Vance Bourjaily

“His first novel, The End Of My Life, was very nearly the last book edited by Max Perkins — and Bourjaily, to my knowledge, is the last living writer who worked with Perkins. (And, speaking of another of Perkins’ writers, Hemingway, in a conversation with Leslie Fiedler in 1960, singled out Bourjaily as the best writer of his generation….)”

Jerome Weidman

“Not long before he died, F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote (it’s in his published letters) that Weidman was worth fifty or a hundred Steinbecks (forget which it was). Later in the Forties, Hemingway said in a letter that Weidman, in his first books, certainly proved he could write. Rebecca West liked him too.”